There is nothing sexier than a perfectly ripe peach and nothing more disappointing than one that is subpar. I find the former more difficult to lay my hands on than the latter, but it is worth the hunt and the wait to get one. It seems that peaches have good seasons and bad ones. It is the entire crop that is either smooth, juicy, sweet and floral or they are mealy and have no discernible taste or smell. Folks, this seems, at first examination, to be one of those prized peach years. I admit mine were not local, just a seductive flat from Costco. I even bought it when the peaches were still too firm to know what they would amount to. After a couple of days on the counter I could smell them from across the room and they begged to be eaten. My son dove in first and I immediately sent him out the back door to finish up the slurping in the yard because my kitchen floor was getting sticky from peach juice. Eureka, it is going to be a good summer! The entire case ripened at once and we were eating them as fast as we could. I put them in cereal, in salads, in yogurt, on ice cream and sliced them up and tossed them in this ginger spiked upside-down cake. I’ve made 3 of these cakes since the first one came out of the oven, it is THAT good!
Peach upside-down Cake
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 inch fresh ginger, cut into thin coins
1/2 vanilla bean, cut and scraped
3 tablespoons whiskey (use orange juice if you want to skip the adult libations)
1 pound fresh or frozen peaches (It is ok if they are not perfectly ripe. The firmer the fruit the more it can cook in the caramel without breaking down.)
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup (5oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar, well packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
In a skillet cook together the butter, brown sugar, ginger, salt, vanilla bean, whiskey, and peaches. Cook them on low heat until the juices are the thickness of maple syrup. If the fruit starts to fall apart remove it from the pan and just leave the juices to cook.
Place the fruit and all the juices into an 8-Inch Square Baking Dish. (I made this in a glass pan and in an 8-Inch Square Nonstick Metal Cake Pan and found I liked the color on the one baked in the darker metal pan. Both tasted wonderful, but the color was nicer in the metal.)
Preheat oven to 350°F
To make the cake batter:
In a small saucepan cook the butter over low heat.
until the butter is caramel colored and smells toasty.
Strain the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Leave to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Set aside.
Using the paddle attachment, beat together the browned butter, brown sugar and vanilla until it is cooled off slightly. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Add the fresh ginger and mix just until it is evenly distributed.
Place the batter evenly over the peaches and spread smooth with a Spatula.
bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is set and a tester comes out clean. let sit until the pan is cool enough to handle and invert onto a serving platter.
I serve the cake with the ginger coins and vanilla still in place, but you can remove them before if you want. The ginger can be eaten and has a delightful heat to it, the vanilla is just for drama, but can’t be eaten.